A late Callum Leahy strike gave Basildon United what could be a huge three points in their quest for the title as they defeated a spirited Ilford at Cricklefields.
The first sight of goal came on 6 minutes when Shomari Barnwell found himself with the ball in front of goal on the edge of the area for the visitors but saw keeper Chris Clark come out to save. However two minutes later the visitors did take the lead when a ball down the right released Brad Warner and he squared the ball across goal for Sipho Mtyanda to tap home at the far post.
The Foxes tried to respond three minutes later when Dan Jones saw an effort from the edge of the area go straight at Bobby Mason but on 21 minutes they did find a leveller when a free kick was swung into the Basildon penalty area, was not dealt with by the visiting defence, and saw Glen Warwick lash the loose ball home.
Ilford then almost took the lead on 25 minutes when after the visitors failed to clear their lines again, centre half Isaac Nkosi could only fire wide when in a decent position. Then it was the visitors turn to hold their heads in their hands when they so nearly went back in front as a miss- hit shot fell to Leahy inside the area but his effort at goal was brilliantly tipped round the post by Clark.
The remainder of the half passed without much in the way of goalmouth action and so the sides went in all square at the break in a half that was pretty even steven.
Half Time Ilford 1 Basildon United 1
The visitors went straight on the offensive after the break and seconds into it saw Warner’s deflected effort fly just wide of the near post before Robert Clark struck an effort from range six minutes into the half but Clark was equal to in the Ilford goal, and then moments later Barnwell scuffed a close range effort straight at Clarke as the visitors looked threatening.
Warwick then saw a long-range free kick bounce just in front of Bees keeper Mason, who saved fairly comfortably on 56 minutes, but on 64 minutes the visitors had a huge let off when a poor ball back from a defender saw Carl Mullings latch onto the ball and bare down on goal but he lifted his effort way over and Basildon breathed a huge sigh of relief.
However just two minutes after this miss the hosts did take the lead, as a ball into the box fell to Mullings whose mis-hit effort turned out to be a great pass to the back post where Ashley Skeggs was waiting and he duly diverted the effort into the far corner from inside the six yard box and gave the visitors work to do if they were to get anything from this match.
The Bees looked to respond and on 69 minutes a ball bounced for Clark who had a sight at goal but struck his effort well wide of the Ilford goal before the hosts threatened a third on 73 minutes when good football by the Foxes saw a ball into Mullings, see him turn, but fire well over the bar. Back up the other end a minute later and Warner saw himself in behind the defence but Clark came out to block his effort.
Ilford threatened again just inside the last fifteen minutes when Basildon couldn’t deal with a corner to the back post but Skeggs eventually lifted the effort over the bar. You felt that the hosts needed a third to give themselves a chance of winning this game as the Bees were always bound to get another chance at some point and sure enough with ten minutes to go the Bees levelled the match up once again, as after a shot had been blocked, the ball ricocheted up into the path of Mtyanda who duly volleyed home from inside the box.
The visitors now sensed they could go on and score a crucial winning goal and with five minutes of the ninety left flashed a shot across goal, this after keeper Clark had produced a poor kick out after a less than helpful backpass across his own area. Ilford survived that but in the 89th minute they were powerless to prevent the Bees from scoring the winner, in what could be a massive goal in the title race, as Leahy got through down the right before lifting the ball over an advanced Clark and into the net sparking jubilant scenes with the players and the away supporters gathered in that corner of the ground.
The result means that Ilford haven’t as yet confirmed fifth place just yet although its near enough settled, whilst for Basildon they have now increased their lead at the top to five points and have given themselves a great chance of winning the title now.
Full Time Ilford 2 Basildon United 3
By Peter Dudley
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